What's the Job Description of a Personal Trainer?

Research what it takes to become a personal trainer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Fitness Trainer degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Personal Trainer?

Personal trainers are fitness professionals who focus on improving the physical fitness of their clients by determining their clients' goals and creating a routine they can follow to meet those goals. Typically, a personal trainer works individually with clients, but he or she may also lead small groups of individuals. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to, modeling exercises for clients, giving feedback and encouragement and administering first aid if necessary. Positivity and communication skills, in addition to physical fitness, are important traits in personal trainers. See the table below for more information about a career in personal training:

Degree RequiredH.S. Diploma or G.E.D. or equivalent at minimum;
Associate's or bachelor's degree may be required by some employers
Education Field of StudyPhysical Education
Exercise Science
Key ResponsibilitiesMarket services to potential clients
Develop and maintain positive relationships with clients
Evaluate clients' fitness levels
Develop exercise programs appropriate to the individual client
Ensure equipment is in good working order and is being used safely
Licensure/CertificationProfessional certification preferred;
CPR certification typically required
Job Growth (2018-2028)13% for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors*
Median Salary (2018)$39,820 for fitness trainers and aerobics instructors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Personal Trainer Job Description

Personal trainers are one of several types of fitness workers. As the job title suggests, a personal trainer typically works with clients on an intimate, one-on-one basis, but you may also lead small groups of two or three individuals. Your job as a personal trainer involves assessing clients' fitness levels, screening for risk factors and helping them set appropriate fitness goals.

You may work with your clients to help them reach these goals by designing their exercise regimen, demonstrating exercises, spotting and overseeing workouts, providing relevant lifestyle advice and monitoring their progress. Because this field is always evolving, you need to stay on top of new information and technologies in exercise science, including changing trends and new workouts.

Where Might I Work?

As a personal trainer, you might be employed by a gym or other wellness center, or you could manage your own clients and run your own business. You would likely spend much of your time indoors at gyms and health clubs, but you might also work with clients in their homes or train clients outdoors. To meet the needs of clients and maintain a full-time work schedule, you may need to work nights and weekends. Requirements for getting a job as a personal trainer vary, so you may want to check with local employers to find out what type of training and certification they prefer.

How Much Might I Earn?

How much you earn as a personal trainer depends upon several factors, including whether you work part-time or full-time and what types of clients you train. Your salary as a personal trainer could come down to how well you can sell yourself and your service. In May 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median salary of $39,820 for all fitness workers, a category that includes personal trainers, aerobics instructors and other fitness trainers (www.bls.gov). Projected growth for all fitness workers from 2018 to 2028 should be 13%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a rate of growth that is considered average.

How Do I Prepare for this Field?

Certification is voluntary for personal trainers, but employers prefer to hire certified trainers. Many different organizations offer certification for this field, but a National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCAA)-accredited organization is considered optimal. The Academy of Applied Personal Training Education is one such accredited organization, which offers a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer - Health Fitness Instructor certification. The American Council on Exercise is another NCCA-accredited organization that offers personal-trainer certification.

Most certifying organizations require you to pass an exam, be CPR-certified and have a high school diploma in order to qualify for certification. You can decide how to prepare for the certification exam, since no standard training program exists for personal trainer certification. Most certifying organizations provide optional study materials and workshops to help you prepare. Some employers may also require their personal trainers to have bachelor's degrees in a relevant field, such as physical education or exercise science. To gain hands-on experience, you might shadow an experienced personal trainer before taking on your own clients.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Recreation workers need high school diplomas and lead leisure activities for groups at playgrounds, parks and camps. Physical therapist assistants work with physical therapists and focus on using exercise to help patients recover from injuries; they must complete an associate's degree program. Finally, exercise physiologists, who must have bachelor's degrees, design exercise programs that will help in the recovery of patients with debilitating illnesses.

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